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KM should be ‘Task focused’ and not ‘Employee focused’

As the title suggests, the focus of KM interventions should always be on the tasks performed by the organization and the not the employees who perform the tasks. Tasks can be related to production, procuring raw materials, marketing products/services, distribution of products, as well as setting up new centres, employee skill development etc. An organization performs multiple tasks, some that directly result in final products/services and some that support them. The success of an organization depends on how well it performs critical tasks that govern its industry and are related to its goals.

Organizations not only need to perform its task at par with industry but improve in their ability to perform the tasks continuously. Continuous improvement is required because at the industry level the way tasks are performed keep improving. If you compare a leader and a laggard, you will find that the difference between them is in the way they perform the key tasks that govern their industry. Holding the complexity of a task constant, the leader will find it easy to perform the task as compared to a laggard.

Hence staying competitive means improving the way the tasks are performed. Now when we analyse the way tasks are performed, we find that it involves employees, tools and processes. Employees use tools and perform the task based on defined processes. In some cases, tools and processes together perform a task without the involvement of the employees (Automation). The importance of these three, to perform a task vary based on the complexity of the task. If the task is routine and non-complex, then processes and tools become important and if it is complex then employees become important.

Since the focus of organizations is to continuously improve the way tasks are performed,  they will have to keep learning about how the tasks are performed. This in turn brings down the complexity in performing the tasks and results in repeat-ability, low cost, more control and improved quality. This also means moving from depending on employees to perform the tasks to tools and processes. If one analyzes a specific task and how it is performed across different organizations, one can see that organizations which are more efficient or effective will mostly be more tool and process-driven. Employees will be playing an enabling role of both performing the task and bringing down complexity in performing the task.

Now let us look at what happens when KM is employee focused. Our interventions will be focused towards employees and we will attempt to help organizations achieve its goals through the employees. Employees will be supplied with all the information and knowledge that will help them and an expectation that they will use it. Interestingly an employee-focused approach can also lead to the creation of “professional organizations” or “expert-driven organizations”, resulting in more instances of knowledge hoarding and tacit knowledge not getting converted to explicit knowledge.

The focus of KM should be to enable the organization to stay competitive, by helping improve the way tasks are performed. This is not by focusing on the employees but on the tasks and intelligently enabling embedding of knowledge into the processes and tools. When we do that our measurement parameters will change into those that are business-oriented and not on successes in the intermediate levels. Our outlook on how to support the organization will go through a ‘metamorphosis’.

Note that content management and social networking are very important for the organization and KM should do that. However, there are many other pieces that get missed out when we are employee-focused. We may be making it difficult for ‘Knowledge’ to be of benefit to the organization.

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